A number of pain clinics in south Florida were subjected to raids by state and federal agents, in an operation that sought to expose what was termed as “pill mills,” according to a report by Reuters.
Six clinic owners and operators were charged with conspiring to illegally dispense more than 660,000 doses of the often-abused painkiller oxycodone, to patients who are reached through the internet, in a scheme that was said to have netted $22 million in profits.
Oxycodone is abused by crushing and then snorting the drug, or by dissolving and injecting it. The drug is addictive and has led to a number of overdose cases, some of which have been fatal.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer shared that “according to recent estimates, Florida prescribes ten times more oxycodone pills than all other states combined.”
The crackdown was given the name “Operation Snake Oil,” and targeted storefront pain clinic owners and operations. These entities were marketing prescriptions using more than 1,600 Internet sites.
The indictment revealed that drug dealers are able to sell a 30-mg oxycodone pill on the street for $10 to $30, sometimes even more, as demand for the drug increased. The clinics in question demanded cash payments, and justified the prescriptions it issues for the drugs by falsifying urine tests and “over-aggressively” interpreting medical imaging.
Michele Leonhart, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said: “Prescription drug abuse is our country’s fastest growing drug problem, and pill mills such as those in Florida are fueling much of that growth.”